In a year...
This was once my mantra. Those first few years of motherhood. When I was knee deep in it, sleep deprived and stuck, I would tell myself that in a year things would be better. Caitlin would be older. She would sleep better, eat better, I'd manage things better. In a year I'd be a better mother. And then the next year would come, and with it more obstacles, complications, and bumps in the road.
Still, I told myself that in a year it would be better. Others told me too. The knowing "grandmas" at the grocery stores, "Don't blink or you'll miss it". The other mothers with children older than mine, "They will grow out of that". The mothers with children the same age as mine, "It's a phase, I'm sure of it". All the while giving me that false sense of security that in time all that crap that weighed me down would reconcile itself.
This time last year I was knee deep in it again. With my first born, who I've with struggled since day one. This time last year we were in a place where anxiety and fear took over every bit of our days. Her anxiety and fear, my misunderstanding and sometimes disapproval. This time last year she cried every morning on the way to school, as if a switch had been flipped sometime around Thanksgiving. She refused to go to music class, refused to participate in the Holiday program, and out right refused to attend school the day of the program in fear that someone would make her participate anyway. And when I say refuse, I mean hysterical crying with whole body shakes. It was a sight. And it was something I didn't know how to handle.
This time last year, her and I fought constantly. To the point where one of us, or both of us, were reduced to tears, then screaming, then resigned to guttural animal noises. I'm not proud to say that, or even admit it, but it's true. It was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but I'll be honest with you, it was also the most confusing when it came to Caitlin. How did we go from loving school and music class, to hot mess express in just a few weeks time? To this day we still do not know what caused that anxiety and fear.
It's been a year. In fact last Thursday was the annual Holiday Program at school. In the weeks leading up to the program, I listened to my daughter practice "Blue Christmas" in her bedroom. I took her shopping for a new dress. Grandma took her shopping for new shoes. We found the perfect headband. And all the while I was saying silent prayers that nothing would tip the scales the other way. I prayed that anxiety and her bitch friend fear would keep their filthy mouths shut. Because my girl was excited and ready, and couldn't stop talking about how much fun it was going to be.
We made it to Thursday. At breakfast she mentioned a poem that she was reading with two of her friends. It was the first I had heard of it. I asked her what it was about and she said Hanukkah. She was excited and talkative and really wanted me to post her dress on Instagram. I let out a sigh of relief. And thought... What a difference a year makes.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the program to find my daughter in the front row off to the right. In front of a microphone, with two of her friends. She looked a little nervous, and I worried for her, and then worried more for me. But when she saw us (Me, Daddy, Grandma Linda, and Grandma Kathy) she had smiles for all of us. The program began with "Blue Christmas" and I teared up. It took everything I had not to cry big fat happy and sad tears. Because so much changes in a year.
I had to hold my breath for most of the performance because if I had allowed myself to breathe I would have cried like a baby. I was so proud and so happy for her. Happy that anxiety and fear had not gotten the best of her this year. Happy and proud that she led the entire second grade in a Hanukkah poem, with two of her friends, at the microphone, in front of a packed cafeteria. Happy and proud that she was so happy, comfortable, and proud of herself. That she basked in the light of being on stage and did a fantastic job. I was so happy and proud that she knows what that feels like.
But some of those tears were for sadness too. Because so much changes in a year. She went up a size in clothes this year, up a reading level in school. She makes her own lunch and picks out her own clothes, and sometimes would rather hang with dad than mom. Because for so long I just wanted to get to the other side of that year. The one that was hard, the one I felt like I couldn't get through, and then when I did get through I was left wondering if I savored every bit. If I enjoyed every moment, learned from every misstep, valued every lesson. I've learned so much from having Caitlin as my daughter because she taught me that no matter the challenge there is joy in every step. Joy in every misstep. Joy in every part of the journey. Even if I'm blind to it at the time, it's there for me when I'm ready.
Sunday night Caitlin brought me a book she wrote for me using computer paper, tape, and markers. The book is dedicated to Me, Daddy, and Kenzie, it opens the wrong way, and it's only four pages long. It's the best gift I've gotten this year because of these three lines,
"Wuns upon a time there was two people who had a baby.
She was perfect.
Everything was perfect."
And again, I cried. Because it is the absolute truth. Even though I didn't know it at the time. She is perfect. Everything is perfect. In its own way. The day she was born, perfect was redefined. I was struck that my daughter who challenges me, fights me, and loves me, obviously "gets" me. She has always known that everything is perfect, no matter the year.